Prison Fellowship’s ministry in Tasmania is growing from spiritual mentoring, evangelism, and teaching art and craft, to building and constructing facilities to improve the inmates’ quality of life. The opportunity to build a poly tunnel to expand the vegetable garden in the women’s prison was met with great enthusiasm; Prison Fellowship volunteers Janet and James were able to work alongside inmates in this project, building Kingdom relationships in the process.
Prison Fellowship volunteer, Janet Stone, tells the story: Being a volunteer with Prison Fellowship can involve all sorts of interesting activities.
A Poly Tunnel Hot House was part of a plan to expand the veggie patch in the women’s prison, to provide opportunities for inmates to practice horticulture as well as provide fresh vegetables for cooking their own meals.
The prison contacted me to request Prison Fellowship’s assistance with the project. My prayers for qualified help to build the poly tunnel were answered when James, a qualified carpenter and youth pastor, offered to help.
With only three sessions of 2 hours available to complete the project, we experienced initial difficulties and delays with materials not arriving on time, and then further delays as they were then inspected by security. By the end of the first building session we had only managed to put seven stakes into the ground! Through much prayer, the materials arrived in time for the second session.
James worked with the inmates teaching them how to check for ‘square’ by using a 3, 4, 5 triangle (Pythagoras’ theorem), and weaving other basic building skills into the building project, such as the use of plumb lines, electric drills and drivers. He recalls fondly, ‘I shared a trade story that when a client walked past we would always say, “Perfect” or “Spot on” regardless of whether it was or not! So it was a running joke as we built we would say, “Perfect!”’
When the foundations were laid ready for the poly tunnel tubes to be fitted, other inmates stopped their volleyball game to hold the thick plastic in place while the women on the project drilled it together, with garden hose for reinforcement. At the end of the day, we watched a “team” of inmates head off with great pride and satisfaction, seeing what they have accomplished together in just over 2 hours.
A week later, we had our last session, after the Hot House had been tested by some strong gusts of wind. It stood the test, with only a couple of minor adjustments to be done. The final task was to put shade cloth on each end and install boards on the top ready for a sprinkler system. Throughout the whole project our hard work was always accompanied by great conversation.
During a short break in proceedings James was chatting with two of the female inmates. As the women and James narrated stories about their children, one inmate shared that she had read the Bible that morning, so they all discussed what she had read.
James found the project incredibly rewarding: ‘I think the work I was involved in was also building bridges for Prison Fellowship, and as someone who represented their work I hope that my involvement would help their presence in the prison.’
I praise God for his provision and for opportunities to be a witness in the prison!
Special thanks to James Veltmeyer for his carpentry skills and sharing his passion for the Gospel.